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WINTER 2012 | Peak

In THIS ISSUE Features





16 COVER: Palmer artist Nicolene Jordan with one of her etched glass pieces. another is behind her.


Song of ‘The Snow child’ Valley author to release first novel by victoria naegele

Green means go ... ... to the circus by rindi white


Fiber creations


Art for the people

Creativity and the art of purling by victoria naegele

Highway critters just one example of public art by zaz hollander

In every issue

5 Peak Profile 8 Scene & Seen 11 In Good Taste 22 A Peek Inside 26 Get out 28 Peak Picks 30 Parting Peak WINTER 2012 | PEak


{ FIRST PEAK } by heather a. resz managing editor MAGAZINE

Peak Magazine is a publication of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, a division of Wick Communications Co. © 2011

ADDRESS P.O. Box 873509 Wasilla, AK 99687

PHONE Office: 907-352-2250 Fax: 907-352-2277

ABOUT US Managing Editor Heather A. Resz Peak Editor Victoria Naegele Sales and Marketing Director Robin Minard Staff Writers Jeremiah Bartz Greg Johnson Andrew Wellner Photo Editor Robert DeBerry Contributors Zaz Hollander Rindi White Graphic Design Greg Johnson


WINTER 2012 | Peak



The staff here at Peak Magazine has given our readers curious glimpses into life in the Matanuska and Susitna valleys for more than a year. This issue, we go even more off-kilter with our Winter 2012 Peak with its theme, “Creativity.” Creativity is something we try to accomplish in each issue of Peak — whether our theme is education, history or growth. We’d like to know if you think we’ve accomplished it. We fill the pages of Peak with faces of your neighbors, stories of the world in your backyard and images of what makes life here special. Peak is about our Valley life. And the stories inside are brought to you by people who live and work here in the Valley: most notably the staff of the Frontiersman. While Peak is written, edited, designed and photographed largely by the Frontiersman’s staff, we also make use of a team of the Valley’s best freelance writers. It gives us all a chance to explore topics from new angles. Creativity abounds in this winter edition. In Talkeetna, youngsters while away the winter hours walking on stilts and riding unicycles. At the other end

at its PEAK

of the borough, a former Frontiersman reporter creates critically acclaimed literature set in Alaska from the cramped upstairs office of her fixer-upper home north of Sutton. Somewhere between, Valley artists in mediums from metal to mohair bring to life unique contributions to the world of artistic function. Artistic function is our goal, too. We’d like your input to help guide us. What window should we throw open for spring 2012? Peak is all about us, but it’s us — cleaned up and dressed in our Sunday best — on glossy magazine pages. If you’d like extra copies of Peak to share with friends, or if you have ideas or comments to share, contact us at 3522250 or Enjoy the read. n


Song of the

SNOW CHILD by victoria naegele

book signing n Fireside Books will host a book release party and signing with Eowyn Ivey, author of “The Snow Child,” on the evening of Feb. 1, from 5 to 8 at the Inn Café in Palmer. The event is open to all, and will include appetizers and beer and wine. Those who have preordered the book from Fireside Books will be able to pick it up at the event. Ivey will be on hand to sign any copies of “The Snow Child.” n “The Snow Child” may be preordered through Fireside Books, goodbooksbadcoffee. com, and is also available through Barnes & Noble, amazon and other major bookstore retailers.

Eowyn Ivey’s “The Snow Child” will not be released in the United States until Feb. 1, but has already generated a blizzard of critical acclaim. The book has been chosen for Barnes & Nobles’ Spring 2012 Discover New Writers program. It made Norway’s Top 10 list soon after it debuted there in October. BBC Radio 4, one of the Uk’s biggest national radio stations, will adapt and broadcast “The Snow Child” in its “Book at Bedtime” slot in 10 episodes in april. For Ivey, whose life parallels some of her characters’, the acclaim is as surreal as the story. “It’s already far exceeding my expectations,” she said. When she hears her book referred to as “literary fiction,” she winces. Eight years of working at Fireside Books in Palmer has given her plenty of time to shelve literary fiction. Works of Buck, Brontë, Sparks and Stevenson line the literary fiction shelves. She shakes her head at the thought someone could soon shelve “The Snow Child” between “The Scarlet Letter” and “Daisy Miller.” Ivey said her work as a bookseller, which followed her nine years as a newspaper reporter for the Frontiersman, helped prepare her for this adventure. “I was as prepared as I possibly could be to be published without ever being published,” she said. Prepared, she said, because she knew how difficult it would be and how to work with an editor.



y evocatively superimposing a Russian fairy tale on the gritty reality of pioneer farming in 1920s alaska, a Valley writer has whisked herself into a fantasy-like world of New York publishers, international book events and success as a first-time novelist.

Valley author Eowyn Ivey is excited about the release of her first novel, ‘The Snow Child.’ (VICTORIA NAEGELE/PEAK)

WINTER 2012 | PEak


{ Peak profile }

s Eowyn Ivey in her kitchen with daughters Aurora (center) and Grace. Ivey’s family was her first critical audience as she worked on her book ‘The Snow Child.’ Grace and Ivey’s husband, Sam, would evaluate passages as Ivey worked on the novel in their Sutton-Chickaloon area home. (VICTORIA NAEGELE/PEAK)

Still, she might not have defied the odds if she hadn’t listened to her mother. In 2006, Ivey and her mother, Palmer poet Julie LeMay, attended the Katchemak Bay Writers’ Conference in Homer. The guest agent at the conference, Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, offered 15-minute, one-on-one sessions to conference attendees. Ivey had not signed up. “My mom said, ‘Ask him if he can squeeze you in,’” Ivey recalled. “I really went into him with no expectations,” Ivey said. She went in with less than that. “I told him the pitch and he said, ‘I want to read the first 100 pages,’” Ivey said. “I realized I really screwed up. I didn’t have it with me.”


WINTER 2012 | Peak

“I’m thinking, ‘That’s that,’” Ivey said, afraid the delays cost her any chance at Kleinman’s interest. But the next morning, Kleinman hurried across the room to tell her, “I want to represent it.” “I thought I was in,” Ivey said, laughing at her own naiveté. “Of course, that’s not how it is.” It was three years from the time Kleinman read those 100 pages until he sold the rights for the book’s publication to Little, Brown and Company. By the time the book appears on shelves in the United States, another two years will have passed. More on page 29


A frantic call home to her husband, Sam, the area management biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game in Palmer, got her nowhere. Sam was out cutting

wood. A neighbor tracked down Sam, who dug through her files, printed the 100 pages and took them to the Sutton Library for faxing to Homer. But the fax never made it to Kleinman. Eventually Kleinman received the partial manuscript via email.


from ‘the snow child’ by eowyn ivey Reagan arthur Books/ Little, Brown & Co. February 2012

She followed the girl away from the homestead and along trails Mabel alone never could have seen or known — snowshoe hare runs beneath willow boughs, wolf tracks along hard-packed drifts. The day was cold and peaceful. Mabel’s breath rose around her face and turned to frost on her eyelashes and along the edges of the fox fur hat. She stumbled in Jack’s wool pants and the snowshoes he had strapped to her feet; ahead of her Faina strode in ease and grace, her feet light on the snow. They climbed out of the river valley and up toward the blue sky, up until they were on the side of a mountain. There, the girl said. She pointed to the fanned impression of a bird’s small wings on the surface of the snow, each feather print perfect, exquisite symmetry. What is it? a ptarmigan flew. and there? Mabel pointed to a series of small dashes in the snow. an ermine ran. Everything was sparkled and sharp as if the world were new, hatched that very morning from an icy egg. Willow branches were cloaked in hoar frost, waterfalls incased in ice, and the snowy land speckled with the tracks of a hundred wild animals: red-backed voles, coyotes and fox, fat-footed lynx, moose and dancing magpies. n

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WINTER 2012 | PEak


{ Scene & Seen }

it’s all gravy, baby photos by robert deberry

s Runners get off the starting line during the 3K and 5K fun runs at the Go for the Gravy fundraiser for Fronteras Spanish Immersion Charter School.


Runners wear their bibs on the outside of their winter coats for the brisk Go for the Gravy fun run, held outside in temperatures hovering at about 3 degrees.


WINTER 2012 | Peak

{ Scene & Seen }

s David Germer, above, cheers on his stepson, Carson, during the kids run at the Go for the Gravy run. Below, three small children watch as the Just Playin’ Jazz band entertains the crowd at Wasilla High School. t

s Jasmin Butrlakorn leads a Zumba warm-up session before the start of the Go for the Gravy fun run at Wasilla High School.The event was a fundraiser for Fronteras Spanish Immersion Charter School.


Sarah Bowman takes a picture of Kasey and Wendy Thompson before the run.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District

Opportunities Abound in Mat-Su Schools!

Mission: Mat-Su Borough School District prepares students for success. WINTER 2012 | Peak


{ scene & Seen }

s Medals sit ready for participants at the Go for the Gravy fun run at Wasilla High School.


Twelve-week-old Lyric Halverson takes a break from Go for the Gravy fun run action at Wasilla High School.

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WINTER 2012 | Peak


Mile 8, Knik Goose Bay Rd., Wasilla


STUFFED TIGER PRAWNS WITH LOBSTER SAUCE Ingredients n 10 jumbo tiger prawns (shell on) n Blue crab meat n Imitation crab n Bay shrimp n Minced onions n Salt n Cream cheese n Sour cream n Lobster base n Heavy cream n Water n Butter Preheat oven to 375 degrees. First, prepare the stuffing by mixing the blue crab meat, imitation crab, bay shrimp, minced onions, salt, cream cheese and sour cream. Split, peel and devein the prawns (retain the shells for the sauce). Smear butter over a baking sheet and lay the prawns on the sheet. Place one to two ounces of stuffing in each prawn. To make the sauce, put the prawn shells in a medium sauce pan of water and bring to a boil for about 30 minutes. Remove the shells and add the heavy cream and lobster base. Simmer until it thickens. Bake the prawns for 10 to 14 minutes or until golden brown. Ladle the lobster sauce over the prawns and enjoy. Serve with rice pilaf or garlic mashed potatoes.


ABOUT THE CHEF Sony Schibalski compares herself and her husband, Hans, to one of the tastier residents of their adopted home state. “We’re like salmon. We always come back,” Sony said from a table in the lounge of the couple’s business, the Settlers Bay Lodge. They met in Anchorage. Sony, originally from Korea, was a nurse before she arrived in the state. But she didn’t want to work in hospitals anymore. “People always enjoy my cooking,” she remembers thinking. So she got into the restaurant business, starting with The Perfect Cup. Along the way she met Hans. They married and went into business together. One restaurant grew into three. They had 120 employees. To say they were busy would be an understatement. Eventually, the pace burned them out. They sold it all and took a trip around the world. But soon they were going

nuts being idle. So they came back to Alaska and bought the Best Western Lake Lucille Inn. “Everybody said, ‘You’re not going to make it there. This town is too small,’” Sony said. Everyone was wrong. Then somebody offered to buy the place. So the Schibalskis retired. They lived in Seattle, Florida and Australia. They were out of the restaurant game eight years — but that restlessness returned. They bought the restaurant at Settlers Bay. “We thought nobody was going to recognize us. Everybody said, ‘Thanks for coming back,’” Sony said. So far so good. The Knik-Goose Bay Road area — the Valley’s fastest growing — is filling in around them. Business has been up every year since they took over in 2008. And it suits their lifestyle. They only open for dinner, six hours a night. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s more fun,” Sony said. n WINTER 2012 | Peak


GREE means

... to th by

get in the groove n Stop in at the Sheldon Community arts Hangar on any Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. and you might find children juggling pins while pedaling a unicycle or flying through the air with the greatest of ease. Practices are open to the public and free of charge. No prior skills are necessary. Participants must be 7 years or older. n Interested in signing your child up for Green Light Circus’ summer camp? Registration begins in March. The camp runs five days a week for three weeks beginning at the end of May. Camp fees are generally $75 and participants will have a chance to learn a variety of circus skills, from clowning to juggling to stilt walking to aerial arts. Check Denali arts Council ( for registration details.


n Talkeetna, it’s still possible to run away and join the circus, if only for an evening. On winter Sundays, when the snow piles up outside and the cozy quiet of off-season Talkeetna descends, a little summer is relived in the Sheldon Community arts Hangar. kids toss off winter layers and get down to tights or spandex to practice swinging through the air held up by long silk ribbons or whirling with one foot in a Spanish web. On the floor, other children juggle pins or hoops, perhaps while circling the room on a unicycle. In the background, music from someone’s iPod underscores the action. all the practicing is done under the watchful eyes of adults — four or five adults with different specialties generally attend — but the Circus Sundays are kept low-key, with an open format, Green Light co-director Mary Farina said. Don’t expect to see kids lined up doing warm-up stretches or juggling all in a row. In keeping with the feel of most circuses, Circus Sundays are more about having fun and showing off than they are about regimented skill building.


Bailey Mischenko combines stilt-walking with hula-hooping prior to the 2011 Green Light Circus parade. (Courtesy Emily La Porte)


WINTER 2012 | PEak

Organizers say the Sunday practices are a way to shake off the winter doldrums and keep circus skills honed through the year. With a circus camp in the summer, kids get excited about the things they learn. But practicing throughout the rest of the year is a challenge, as circus equipment — particularly aerial equipment such as aerial silks and the Spanish web — are expensive and challenging to use at home. That’s why Circus



GO ...

Vega Papasadora blows a twisty tuba while R.G Denny holds it steady. (Courtesy Emily La Porte)

he circus rindi white Sundays were started, Farina said. It’s little surprise that Talkeetna is home to a community circus. Visit there in the summer and you might see kids playing in the park with “devil sticks,” a game in which two sticks are held and a third is twirled between them or launched high in the air, only to be caught and twirled up again. Street musicians are a frequent sight and, during summer festivals, the community has the feeling of a Gypsy or Romany camp. That’s fitting —Romany and wandering minstrels are the ancestors of the modern circus. and although there might not be trained bears walking around town, elfin children with impish smiles are a frequent sight. Green Light Circus is a Talkeetna institution that has been running since 1994. It started when former resident Mary Langham and karen Mannix, a teacher at Talkeetna Elementary School, secured grants and began a circusthemed school project. “I did a lot of circus arts in the gym during P.E. and Mary did some after-school stuff,” Mannix said. Mannix said gymnastics are her specialty and Langham is an expert juggler. Together they created a circus in the school gymnasium. “We had kids who sold tickets, we had kids selling popcorn, we brought in vendors,” Mannix said. Summer circus camps started soon afterward and dozens of children jumped at the chance to learn how to ride a unicycle or juggle hoops and pins. artist-in-residence

programs were used to bring circus-arts specialists to teach students how to build human pyramids or do amazing jumprope tricks. The camps culminate in community parades and performances that included everyone from the littlest entertainers to teenagers. Farina said she remembers a trapeze act one year that a 4- and a 6-year-old, though the trapeze was hung just a couple feet from the floor. The Green Light group has taken its show on the road a few times, performing at the alaska State Fair. Some performers, such as Langham and her family, ran away and started their own circus — the Nearly Normal Langham Circus, which returned to Talkeetna this summer and performed a few shows. The Langhams are also involved with Washington-based “The New Old Time Chatauqua,” a regional traveling circus that toured alaska this summer. They say circusing gets in your blood — the camaraderie of learning tricks and practicing together, the thrill of performing, the excitement of donning makeup and fun costumes. There’s certainly something to that, Green Light organizers say. Farina and Mannix got into circusing in part because their children were involved. But both remained involved after their children had moved on to other pursuits. Even now, Mannix said she laments not being involved recently and hopes to get back into teaching gymnastic skills. Farina said she misses the hours spent at camp. “It’s a lot of fun — I wish I could be more involved,” she said. n

WINTER 2012 | PEak



CREATIVITY: Art of purling by victoria naegele


or some it’s the color; for some, the pattern; for still others, it is the functionality of their art. Theirs is a medium with borders but no boundaries. They are fiber artists. Creativity for fiber artists takes many forms. Some are technicians — they see a pattern and duplicate it. Others are true artists, whose concepts of texture, color and style are as developed as any artist of the often more-esteemed mediums. Where does the craft end and art begin? “In every craft class I’ve taken, that’s been one of the questions,” said Carol Johnson, president of the Valley Fiber arts Guild. “It all depends on the eye of the beholder.” Even the argument that art is purely decorative doesn’t wash with Johnson, who points out many fiber art projects are “utilitarian but gorgeous.” Take Patty Rosnel of Palmer, a member of the International Old Lacers Inc. and a master of fiber and thread with the


WINTER 2012 | PEak


For lace enthusiasts like Patty Rosnel, it’s more about the holes than the stitching. Rosnel, modeling one of her knitted lace creations, said there is a resurgence of lace knitting as a cottage industry, especially in Eastern European countries. (VICTORIA NAEGELE/PEAK)

Crochet Guild of america. Her knitted lace is intricate, delicate and wearable. Rosnel enjoys vintage patterns that date back to the 1800s when fancy lace was considered the hallmark of well-bred ladies. In the 19th century, lace was admired, and knitted and crocheted work added beauty. It wasn’t until the 20th century that knitting became more practical and utilitarian, Rosnel said. Crochet, too, underwent an identity crisis after decades of being admired. Rosnel’s Irish lacework evokes images of thatch-roof, whitewashed cottages. But say “crochet” and some people are stuck in the 1970s. “Crochet still has the aura of granny squares and bright-colored acrylics,” Rosnel said. Bright colors are still a part of fiber arts. For crafters like Denise Morrison, color is key. Morrison is a spinner and fiber dyer who owns Fiber ‘N Ice, a craft store in the SBS Mall at the Big Lake Road intersection off the Parks Highway. Morrison’s store is strung with vibrant colors and subtle hues that she has concocted to tempt other fiber artists.

looking for just the right hues for their projects, there’s no shopping for Coats & Clark skeins in black wrappers at the local department or discount store. Rosnel, who relies on vintage patterns, said it is a crafter’s choice of fiber (yarn or thread gleaned from anything from goat to alpaca to dog), colors and needles, and the variations they make, which lift their projects from a craft to art. She said it isn’t just the product — it’s the effort. “It’s a very meditative process. “It helps us connect, not just to the fiber … but back to ourselves,” Rosnel said. “These are our roots. We want to keep all of these traditions and old pattern designs alive.” Rosnel said there are many online resources to keep fiber artists connected. The International Old Lacers site is Valley Fiber arts Guild is online at n


Yarn goes full circle in the hands of creative crafters like Denise Morrison of Fiber ‘n Ice in Big Lake. She dyes, spins and creates with yarns. t

To the untrained eye, the roving — spinning fiber — looks like a pleasantly variegated hank of loose yarn. To Morrison it is custom art. “It’s mine,” she said proudly. “I created it. I like color. I like to create new color ways.” By overlapping colors, the roving goes from its natural color or a factory color to something — a way — that is uniquely her own. For fiber artists

WINTER 2012 | PEak



by zaz


he huge metal moose and salmon frolicking along the Glenn-Parks Interchange are about as public as art gets. Thousands of people pass them every day. But most drive right by the steel critters with no idea who created them. Palmer artist Nicolene Jordan forged the 8-foottall steel sculptures for the $47 million highway project, completed in 2004. Jordan works mostly in glass, so it’s curious that her most famous piece uses the much more sturdy medium of metal. Like most public art, the animals she designed bring a small dose of grace to what otherwise might be just another day’s commute. “In most places, you get through an exchange and all you see is concrete and steel,” said Howard Best of the Palmer arts Council. “That is such a delightful break to the pattern.”


Mat-Su Borough is home to all manner of public art like that found on the interchange. Essentially, public art is any creation displayed in a

Valley artist Nicolene (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)


WINTER 2012 | PEak

FOR the PeoPle hollander place where people can view it for free, often outside. Visitors to the Veterans Wall of Honor near Mat-Su Regional Medical Center sometimes spend hours in the presence of the wall. The wall draws hundreds of people for Memorial or Veterans Day. at least 19 Mat-Su schools, as well as Mat-Su College, publicly display artworks funded through a state program that sets aside 1 percent of construction costs to pay for art. Several public art installations pop up at correctional facilities — the totem in front of Palmer’s Mat-Su Pre-Trial Facility, the abstract metal rendering of a motorcycle just past the gate at Palmer Correctional Facility. artistic pieces pop up in local libraries, too. and some of our public art honors the borough’s dog-mushing tradition — the pint-sized statue of Balto in front of Palmer’s museum and visitor center, the bust of Joe Redington Sr. at Wasilla’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race headquarters.

s Nicolene Jordan is known for her glass work.This design is on her kitchen table. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

Jordan, creator of the interchange art, said she just happened to be in the right place at the right time when she was selected to design the artwork for such a major and visible project. a contractor spotted a photo slide of a moose she’d etched on a piece of glass for the alaska State Council on the arts the day a company representative dropped by to

Highway critters just one example

of Mat-Su public art scene

Jordan inside her Palmer work space.

WINTER 2012 | PEak


s Above, Nicolene Jordan removes a large piece of glass from the kiln at her Palmer work space.This panel is part of a larger piece that will be installed at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. Below, an example of how Jordan transforms glass into works of art full of texture and color. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

ask about possible artists for the wall. That very image served as the template for the life-sized moose. Jordan, who owns Central Gravel Products, said she did “sign” the project with her trademark block-letter “N.” But still, she said, “There’s not a lot of people that know I did that.” Creating the large metal pieces took several steps. First, Jordan said, she took her designs to Steelfab in Anchorage. Workers there cut the shapes out of 3/8-inch steel that came in sheets measuring 8 by 20 feet.

Then Jordan took the cutouts to her gravel pit for rusting: she wanted an even coat of rust rather than a spotty coat that would happen if the pieces were hung on the interchange and then exposed to the elements. She lay the steel out at the pit and coated it with saltwater. Central Gravel isn’t far from the Wick Air strip just off the PalmerWasilla Highway. No doubt a few pilots took a second look at the lifesize moose and massive fish lying on the ground below.


WINTER 2012 | Peak


More on page 25

Balto Artist: Frank White, Wasilla Medium: Bronze Location: Palmer Museum & Visitor Center Description: This statue commemorates Balto, the lead dog of Gunnar Kaasen’s team. Balto led the final team of the diptheria serum run to Nome from Nenana in 1925. A plaque beneath the statue reads in part: “This sculpture was made possible by the efforts of the Butte Elementary 2nd and 3rd Grade Class of the 1997-98 school year.” The class, with help from teacher Dwight Homstad, campaigned for a Cleveland museum to return the stuffed remains of the real Balto to Alaska. The dog was brought to Cleveland in the 1930s after schoolchildren helped raise money to rescue him and his six teammates from a “dime-a-look”


museum in California, according to an Associated Press article. He was stuffed and mounted for the museum when he died. When the Butte students asked for his return, the museum said no. So the students raised money for a

statue instead and collected bronze for the statue as well, according to Palmer historian Wayne Bouwens. Perhaps the most well-known Balto statue stands in Central Park in New York City. n

The Motorcycle Artist: Harold Balazs Medium: Copper Location: Palmer Correctional Center Description: This abstract depiction of a motorcycle was funded by the state 1 Percent for Art program in 1983. The sculpture sits on the lawn outside the mediumsecurity facility facing the security gate, making an ironic statement of being ready to carry someone off to the freedom of the open road. Balazs, the prolific Northwest sculptor, has another piece at the prison, about six other public art pieces in the Anchorage area and a couple in Fairbanks. (Courtesy Palmer Arts Council)

Note: this piece is relatively inaccessible to the public as it is located inside the prison gate. Apparently, the sculpture was installed without a concrete pad, so it has a permanent, frozen lilt to the left where it has sunk down into the turf. n Source: Bridgette Preston/Palmer Arts Council

WINTER 2012 | Peak


Celebration Pole Artist: Suzie Bevins-Ericsen Media: Steel, aluminum Location: Mat-Su Pretrial Facility Description: Standing about 25 feet high, this piece is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Pacific Northwest totem. Observed from a distance, the totem looks somewhat like a stick figure man with a tall, straight pole for a body, two arms sticking straight out the side, and above the arms a humanfeatured and shaped head. Four iridescent turquoise and red seals occupy the lowest two levels of the totem, all swimming upward as if reaching for air or sun. Each seal torso has a carved-out human face with hinges on the side. Stylized blue eagles perch on each end of the “arms.” Cut steel feathers attached to the birds’ sides suggest flight. A carved-out human face also appears in the center of each of the eagles’ bodies. At the top of the pole is an iridescent red human face with a blue band around the eye area. Ten blue feathers decorate the perimeter of the head. n Source: Bridgette Preston/Palmer Arts Council


Sculptures of Children Artist: Elizabeth Biesiot Medium: Ceramic Location: Larson Elementary School Description: This collection of 20 ceramic sculptures at Larson shows children in different activities. It is one of six different pieces displayed at the school. In turn, Larson is one of many Mat-Su Borough School District facilities that showcase public art through a state program called the 1 Percent for Art program. In 1975, the Alaska Legislature passed the Percent for Art in Public Places statute requiring the expenditure of 1 percent of the capital construction costs of public buildings for the acquisition and permanent installation of artwork. Students, staff and families can see a tremendous range of art in schools and facilities. Just a small sample might include stained-glass panels of lynx, birds and insects by Jim Kaiser at Meadow Lakes School; the suspended ravens by Gina Hollomon at Su Valley; or an oil painting of Denali by Shane Lamb at Teeland Middle School. All the pieces in the Mat-Su schools were selected by committees for that school or project, according to Jocelyn Young, who coordinates the program for the municipality of Anchorage and works with schools here. Each committee included the principal, school and PTA representatives. Many included artists. n


WINTER 2012 | Peak


Joe Redington Sr. Artist: Bill Devine, a close friend of Redington’s Medium: Bronze Location: Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters Description: Devine patterned the sculpture after a photograph he took of Redington in the 1970s with his lead dog, Feets. The statue was commissioned in 1999 by Jeff Schultz, of Jeff Schultz Photography and Alaska Stock Images. Donors who are listed on a bronze plaque paid $1,000 each to cover the cost of the sculpture and the base. Dave Olsen, of Iditarod Masonry in Knik, built the base with help from Terry Langholz. Olsen was a close friend and neighbor of Redington’s. Another bust will soon join that of Redington and Feets — Balto, the lead dog in the last leg of the serum run


to Nome. Iditarod headquarters will display a three-quartersize replica of the original Balto statue, displayed in New York City’s Central Park. n Source: Stan Hooley, Iditarod Trail Committee Inc.

Veterans Wall of Honor Artist: John, Hazel and Mark Schwulst maintain and sandblast the panels; Combat Veterans Association is also involved Medium: Black stone Location: Best View Street, next to the Mat-Su Visitors Center Description: Dedicated in 1991 to “all those who have honorably served,” the wall includes 23 panels with 120 names on each but the last. It was designed to resemble the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The veterans honored on its stone panels come from across the United States, Hazel Schwulst says. “We even have Audie Murphy on there.” The first name on the first panel is that of James N. Hartley, USAAC SSgt. 194345. The first name on the last panel is that of Marine Cpl. Jason A. Karella, the 20-yearold from Anchorage who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

When names come in through applications sent to the Schwulsts, Hazel puts them into a computer and enlarges them to produce a rubber stencil. Her husband and son sandblast them into the panels. All American veterans who served honorably may have their names inscribed on the wall at a price of $50 to defray the price of materials. n (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

WINTER 2012 | Peak



s Top, the original silo still sits on the Hamilton property. Above, the inside space of the home has a warm and cozy feel. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

Home is where the

by andrew


t’s a pretty standard alaska problem-solving — converting broken-down cars and trucks into something more useful. The state is replete with station wagons turned into chicken coops, buses into storage sheds, panel vans into workshops, trucks into planters. But Scott and kim Hamilton’s fireplace box — the metal that actually holds the fire — might just take the cake. “The box itself is made from recovered parts and pieces of a 1935 Ford Model T truck,” Scott said. The stones all come from the farm on which the house


WINTER 2012 | PEak

sits. There are even a couple big copper nuggets in there. Scott said he thought for a brief while about trying to expose some of those truck parts, but the thing needed some serious application of modern fireplace technology so he went with an insert, completely covering up the box. So much heat would escape from it, Scott said, that passersby would swear he had a fire going. “No, that’s just your heat bill going out the chimney,” he said. The house is a Colony house, one of the ones built from logs. It’s been in Hamilton’s family since 1955 when his grandfather bought it to go into the dairy business. Scott said his grandfather


s Kim and Scott Hamilton outside their Colony house. Above, the kitchen with its old style cabinets and rock backsplash. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)



knew the house belonged to an official of the Matanuska Colony Project and that the official had his choice of land. He also got 160 acres rather than the standard Colony 40. Grandpa Harlan Hamilton knew he was getting a good piece of farmland, and it has served the family well. It still produces hay, a lot of which is used next door at the alaska State Fair. “It was the largest dairy farm in the state until we got out of the business in 2003,” Scott said. But the house was just about as simple as the rest of the

Colony homes. It’s 30 feet by 40 feet and, from the outside, “unassuming” would be an apt descriptor. “It’s a square box with a hip roof,” Scott said. When he and kim decided two years ago to remodel the place, he said they really had to fight their impulses to go big; add columns or a huge addition with giant windows. “Trust me, we have debated,” Scott said. But, in the end, they just couldn’t bring themselves to do it. “We are enjoying keeping it as close to original as we can,” Scott said. WINTER 2012 | PEak


{ A Peek Inside } He said there’s little mystery why the house is rarely to be found on lists of old Colony homes. It was built without eaves to keep the rain off the logs. So over the years, they started to rot. In the 1960s, Scott said, his family realized that if they were going to save the house they had to do something drastic. So they chipped the exterior of the logs flat, stapled down chicken wire and covered it with stucco. At the same time the Hamiltons added an entry way and a new kitchen. Oh, and they dug out the basement. By hand. With buckets. With that big stone fireplace there they couldn’t move the house or jack it up to get equipment in. So, they had to go with shovels. In that 2008 remodel they had their work cut out for them. One thing people don’t always realize, Scott said, is that there wasn’t a whole lot of care taken in building the Colony houses. Those wall studs went up as soon as the wood was milled. “It was built in a hurry,” he said. Which, nowadays, means there isn’t a square joint in the place. The renovation was a family affair. Kim recalled all four of them — she, Scott and their two kids — in the kitchen pulling out the ceiling. Her boy had on a Vietnam-era gas mask he was using as a respirator. Scott said the roof had been insulated with wood chips he’d pulled out prior to the remodel. The chinks in the logs had let in so much silt that the gray, powdery stuff constituted a third of what he scooped up. Even having cleared out as much as he could, when they took the ceiling down probably 10 trash


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the dictate his father laid down years back — be a good neighbor to the fair. Scott said neither he nor his family has ever made a complaint.

s The Hamilton residence has a little country flair with its weathered-looking coathooks and daily chalk board reminder.. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

bags full of wood chips came with it. As for décor, Kim said everything inside was brown and covered in paneling. They exposed the old log walls in the living areas. It made for a dark enough space, Kim said, that she wanted to go with very light cabinetry in the kitchen. She spent some time picking out just the right ones.

That hayfield doubles as a parking lot at fair time, an arrangement they reached with the fair through a complex landswap deal. As for dealing with those summertime crowds, Scott said he and his family follow

But he’s seen it all, from a drunk kicking over the sawhorse he puts up to block his driveway to mental patients getting loose on an outing from an Anchorage treatment center and running through his fields. No matter how big his sawhorse gets, he said, people will still find a way around it to turn around in his driveway. But, he tells himself, it’s all temporary. “This place is God’s most amazing place to live for 354 days of the year,” he said. n

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“I told her, ‘Just go with it, get what you want,’” Scott said. “What a nice guy, huh?” Kim said. Also in the kitchen, stones they put down to use as a backsplash behind the stove wound up covering three walls to about chair-rail height. Scott said they loved it so much that they started looking for more places to use it. The place is decorated with old items from the farm, including the Hamiltons’ first milking machine, complete with dents from where the cows kicked it. Above it hangs a photo of their boys at harvest time with a hay bale. “This farm is the greatest place to take pictures,” Kim said.

For more helpful tips and information about choosing the right contractor for you, contact the Mat-Su Home Builders Association!

Give us a call or stop by our office! 376-2666 •

t From page 18

“We heard planes flying over all the time,” Jordan said. These days, she’s focusing on the glass she forges in kilns tucked along a side wall in the huge shop she shares with her husband, Mark Loomis. The couple lives with their 9-year-old son, Tino, in a converted Colony barn on the Springer Loop system. Racks and racks of used window glass share space with a black Monte Carlo, a dump truck and the strippeddown chassis of a 1933 Dodge that Loomis is restoring.

The moose that inspired the metal interchange art leans humbly, propped against several other big, square pieces of window glass, all partly hidden behind a box. Jordan still says she came to design the so-visible artwork through a fluke. She doesn’t seem disappointed or surprised that people don’t connect her with the highway creations. She is surprised they’ve stayed so intact — big animals hanging so temptingly in public like that. “Nobody’s even shot at it yet,” she said. n

Valley artist Nicolene Jordan holds a new piece of glass art up to the light while working in her Palmer studio. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)


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{ GET oUT }

s A father and daughter try snowshoeing in the Hatcher Pass area. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)


Lure of the snowshoe

by victoria naegele


With modern snowshoes, families can experience white wilderness in as much stealth and silence as they can muster.

Traveling over the snow may conjure images of sleek snowmachines or the latest in cross-country skis, but for the purist, there’s little to compare with noiseless, and sometimes ungainly, snowshoes.

Snowshoes were likely invented some 6,000 years ago in asia. They eventually evolved into four main wood-andhide styles developed by North american Natives: Bearpaw, alaskan, Michigan and Ojibwa.

Even for those of us whose snowshoeing experience relates to hunting, trapping or surveying, there is a romance of the snowshoe that even its glamorous second cousin, the cross-country ski, cannot emulate.

The styles are distinctive. Michigan snowshoes — longtailed and skinny — were adapted to allow carrying heavy weights. They are easy on trails but awkward where they

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catch in brush or where turning is required. As with cross-country skis, turning requires forethought.

great workout in the fresh air of winter. At a pace of two miles per hour, the snowshoer is burning nearly 500 calories; at three miles an hour, it’s more like 1,000 calories.

Bearpaws are nearly round ovals without tails. Turning is easy and load bearing is good, but they require a bit of an ungainly waddle, so are less desirable on the trail.

One of the great benefits of snowshoeing is there is no need to travel to special trails to enjoy the sport. For those who don’t have public lands for exploring right outside their door, here are two snowshoeing trails for trying out those aluminum or classic wood frames.

Between the two extremes are canoe-like Ojibwa, in which an accomplished walker can go backward, and the Alaskan snowshoe, long and narrow but without the long tail of its Michigan cousin. More modern snowshoes of aluminum and synthetic materials are shorter than the Alaskans and narrower than the bearpaw. The result is a modified rectangle that even the most novice snowshoer can quickly master. As has been said, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Once on snowshoes, the depth of the snow is meaningless. The snowshoe sinks into the powder, but with the weight distributed over the wearer’s snowshoe-webbed feet, the wearer will skim along a few inches below the powdery surface.

Crevasse-Moraine s A snowshoer treks across the snowpack at Hatcher Pass. Snowshoes can help you access the back country. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)

Snowshoes are fitted by weight of the wearer, but there is a wide range each snowshoe will fit. Families will not need to replace snowshoes every year or two for their youngsters. Aerobically, snowshoeing is a

The 2.5-kilometer single track at Crevasse-Moraine, between intersection X and H on trail No. 8, is not groomed in the winter and suitable for snowshoeing. Crevasse-Moraine is off Mile 1.9 Palmer-Wasilla Highway at the end of Loma Prieta Drive. West Butte Snowshoe Trail The 3-kilometer trail up to False Summit and back is good for snowshoeing. The open meadow toward the top of the Butte is state land. Take the Old Glenn Highway out of Palmer to Bodenberg Loop Road. Turn right and go 3/4 mile; turn left on Mothershead and go 2 blocks to the trailhead parking lot on the right. Walk down Mothershead Lane around the corner to the trail access between two private property lots. More

s Modern bindings make snowshoes easy to strap on and off, and easier for children to manipulate.

Other local snowshoe areas include Nancy Lake State Recreational Area near Willow, Hatcher Pass Recreational Area northwest of Palmer, Lake Lucille Park Trail System in Wasilla, Talkeetna Trails and Trapper Creek-Petersville Trails. To learn more, visit (under Quick Access/Trail Conditions), and htm#matsu. n Some information from


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{ peak picks }

IRON DOG What: 2,000-mile snowmachine race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks When: Starts Feb. 19, 2012 Where: Starts at Big Lake Info:

POLAR PLUNGE What: Annual plunge into freezing waters to raise money for local nonprofits. When: Feb. 18, 2012, time to be determined Where: Mat-Su Rumrunners Info:

IDITAROD What: Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race official restart When: Restart kicks off at 2 p.m., March 4, 2012 Where: Willow Lake About: The world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race runs from Willow to Nome and will start mark its 40th year in 2012. Info:

STONE SOUP SUPPER What: Free soup supper every Thursday When: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Where: 1375 E. Bogard Road, Wasilla Info: (907) 354-7279.


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{ peak profile } t From page 6

Hardly with the speed of a newspaper, laughed Ivey, who racked up Alaska Press Association Awards at the Frontiersman, particularly for her features. Ivey wasn’t just sitting in her home with her two daughters, Grace, 12, a veteran of the Valley Performing Arts stage, and Aurora, 4, waiting for the book to sell. Hours and hours of writing and rewriting took Ivey’s original concept and honed it into a saleable product. She turned to her mom and a cadre of friends to go over the manuscript page by page. She said the lessons she learned as a fledgling journalist at the Frontiersman served her well when her agent and editors suggested she make changes. One of her proofreaders pointed out that while her character Mabel was growing zucchini in her 1920s Alaska garden, zucchini wasn’t introduced here until later. Little details like that allowed Ivey to make a believable makebelieve world, she said. But nothing makes the harsh and beautiful world of “The Snow Child” more believable than Ivey’s own love for the outdoors. Born in Denver and raised in Alaska, Ivey’s childhood on Lazy Mountain was one in touch with nature. Her life with her high school sweetheart and daughters has centered on outdoor activities — hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking. They haul water at their fixer-upper house between Sutton and Chickaloon, and sled down the steep slopes around it. Ivey’s ability to simultaneously evoke the stark beauty and graphic realities of life in the wilderness is likely to both mesmerize and repel her readers. She was afraid her editors would cut out the trapping and hunting references in “The Snow Child.” “They seemed really drawn to it and fascinated,” she said. “That was a pleasant surprise to me.” She knows a keen interest in Alaska is helping fuel her book’s meteoric rise. The book’s international sales have already given it some commercial success, but she is guarded about its potential as a money-maker.

s Eowyn Ivey’s rural lifestyle at the Chickaloon-area house she shares with her husband, Sam, and daughters, Grace and Aurora, lends authenticity to her descriptions of fictional homesteaders Jack and Mabel, who yearn for a child in Ivey’s soon-to-be-published book, ‘The Snow Child.’ (Photo by Stephen Nowers)

floating down the Copper River last summer, buoyed by a Rasmuson Foundation grant. She’s been trying to focus on her new project, but the stream of exciting news about “The Snow Child” keeps interrupting. Somehow, she doesn’t mind. “It’s a once in a lifetime,” Ivey said. “Never again will I have a first book out.” Ivey said she’s always wanted to believe in fantasies; now she has her own. “I always wanted to believe those possibilities exist,” Ivey said. Follow information about the book at “The Snow Child’s” Facebook Page or Ivey’s webpage and blog at http:// n

“The book is like having a bunch of lottery tickets,” Ivey said. While the book has spun a fantasy for the Iveys, they’ve kept grounded. When the book sold in France, Sam brought home a French wine to celebrate. “He’s been on a search for a Lithuanian beer,” Ivey said. A publisher recently bought the rights to “The Snow Child” there. Ivey is working on a second fantasy book that sent her

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s Snow flies in the face of Mike Brown and his 7-year-old daughter, Grace, as they slide to a stop at the bottom of the sledding hill at the Crevasse-Moraine Trail System. (ROBERT DeBERRY/PEAK)


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Peak Magazine is a quartlery publication of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.